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Sally Hawkins, left, and Doug Jones in a scene from the film The Shape of Water.Kerry Hayes/The Associated Press

Hollywood movie studios, including Warner Brothers, Disney, Paramount and Universal, say Canada is out of step with other countries when it comes to what counts as a Canadian film.

A research report they commissioned comparing global criteria found Canada’s system is so inflexible that award-winning productions, such as The Umbrella Academy and The Shape of Water, made here and featuring a plethora of Canadian talent, don’t count as officially Canadian.

As Minister of Heritage Pablo Rodriguez prepares to ask the federal broadcasting regulator to modernize the definition of what counts as a Canadian show or film, major global studios, including Netflix and Sony, say Canada should mirror countries such as Britain and the Netherlands, which have a more flexible set of criteria when defining what counts as a homegrown production.

Mr. Rodriguez is preparing to issue the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission with a ministerial direction following the passing of the online streaming act that will make streaming platforms such as Disney+, Netflix and Amazon Prime promote Canadian films and TV and financially support them. Productions qualifying as Canadian can also get access to additional funding.

Laura Scaffidi, spokeswoman for Mr. Rodriguez, said the minister wants the CRTC to modernize the definition.

“This means that all creatives – regardless of official language, ethnicity, age or geography – should have more opportunities to participate in and benefit from a more inclusive system,” she said.

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A report published by the Motion Picture Association, a U.S. trade organization representing major studios, compared criteria for qualifying homegrown productions and found “the Canadian system for defining national content is unusually narrow.”

Many productions do not qualify because the rights are not owned by a Canadian.

Among those that don’t count as Canadian content is Three Pines, Amazon Prime’s 2022 hit drama, which was produced in Canada and based on Canadian author Louise Penny’s series of mystery novels. It was set and filmed in Quebec with a Canadian cast, including Indigenous actors, and Canadian directors.

Jusq’au Declin, Netflix’s first original feature made in Quebec about a Montreal man who joins a survivalist training camp in rural Quebec, also fails to qualify as Canadian. It was written, directed and acted by Quebeckers and shot in Quebec in French. The movie was dubbed and subtitled into 31 languages and watched by 21 million people worldwide.

The Shape of Water – which won Oscars for best picture and best production design – was directed and produced by Guillermo del Toro and Canadian producer J. Miles Dale. It was shot in Toronto and Hamilton with visual effects by a Toronto company and an award-winning Canadian crew, including the costume and sound designers but did not count as Canadian.

The Motion Picture Association wants the CRTC to remove the requirement for copyright to be owned by a Canadian to qualify.

But Canadian producers, including award-winner Ann Bernier, whose production The Mill was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Documentary, said it was crucial that the rights stay in Canada to qualify to be a Canadian production.

“The intellectual property has to stay in Canada. That’s the only way you are going to make money back,” she said. “I want to hire Canadian directors and writers and I want to keep things here.”

Producer Edwina Follows, former general manager of the Discovery Channel Canada, said “If we surrender the ownership of the intellectual property, we are regulated to being service-providers.”

She said if profits leave the country, it would make it more difficult for Canadian production companies to support emerging talent. Her sister, Megan Follows, star of the long-running hit series Anne of Green Gables, said it is “important to honour our own stories in this county and celebrate that as an industry.”

Reynolds Mastin, president of the Canadian Media Producers Association, said: “The more opportunities Canadian companies have to own and monetize their intellectual property, the more opportunities they’ll have to develop and produce the next great Canadian show.”

The Hollywood studios think Canada should mirror countries including Britain, which consider cultural factors, such as whether a program tells a uniquely British story, in what counts as a homegrown production. The Crown, a series chronicling the British Royal Family, counted as British though it was made by Sony.

The studios’ study suggests Canada expand its points-based system for defining a Canadian production, to include cultural criteria while recognizing more Canadian members of the cast and crew.

Productions now must gain at least six of 10 points to qualify as Canadian. Having a Canadian director, screenwriter, lead actors, production designer or art director, director of photography or chief camera operators or composer all count.

Other countries have more boxes to tick to qualify as a homegrown program. The Netherlands has 210 possible points, which include a Dutch makeup artist, hairdresser and visual effects supervisor.

John Lewis, Director of Canadian Affairs at The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union representing people working on films in Canada, said the MDR communications research commissioned by the studios shows “it’s time to redefine Canadian Content by removing IP as a mandatory condition to qualify as a Canadian story and instead make it a consideration.”

He added: “We must expand the 10-point system to include cultural criteria as well as the contributions of all Canadian cast and crew.”